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Unsolved Crimes at Home

There was nothing  particular that Sunday, August 9, 2009, when Mary Ann Fulgar (not her real name), her mother, sister, and her mother’s caregiver-nurse left their house in White Plains, Quezon City to have lunch and a walk around in Libis.

When they returned home four hours later, they were shocked to find the gate of their house slightly opened. But they discovered an appalling sight when they went further in—the house was in disarray, drawers and closets opened, pieces of paper strewn carelessly about, furniture turned over, and jewelry and cash missing.

Lost were P100,000 and USD3,000 in cash, equivalent to a total of P3 million, plus jewelry that included watches – one Philip Stein, Omega with diamond, and a Bulova, a 1.2 karat diamond gold ring, two diamond rings, one sapphire ring with diamond, one ruby ring, a pearl set, a .38 caliber gun, among others. What might seem odd was some P20 bills were lying around the area. “I was ashamed of what happened because most of the jewelry pieces belonged to my siblings,” says Mary Ann. “I just had them for safekeeping, and this had to happen.”

PO3 Ronald Nava, an investigator and crime registrar from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit (CIDG) of Camp Karingal, responded to Mary Ann’s frantic call at 7:00 p.m. later that day. Nava and his team conducted an investigation, coordinated with the village security and the local police, but were unsuccessful in getting any leads. Even finger prints recovered from the scene did not match any of the criminals in their file.

“The investigation became a little bit more difficult because we didn’t get any help from the security in the area or the village association,” Nava says. “We were on our own so it was up to us to dig a little bit deeper to get every single detail.”

The search for the suspects started with a single fingerprint inside the house, extended to a construction site behind the house, then to a boarding house around the neighborhood, but nothing significant came up. As part of the village’s security measures, car stickers would have deterred the suspects from entering the area.  A theory was that they could have just gone in the village by hitching a ride with one of the residents. Even Mary Ann did not have any idea who could have done this dastardly act.

“Up to now, we are still trying to piece everything together, just in case new leads come up,” Nava says. “We were extensively working on this case for six months. We got frustrated because nothing new is surfacing.”

It has been more than a year since the crime. There are no new evidences or new suspects. Mary Ann still lives in White Plains. But Nava would not want to leave any stones unturned. “I truly would want to capture who did this, but there’s nothing I can really do,” he says. “We have to move on with other cases as well.”

The Prescribed Period of Cases

According to Nava, there are about 60% unsolved cases, from murder to robbery, in the entire country because “no evidences can be found, no witnesses emerge, and the suspects are evasive.”

With the recent acquittal of Hubert Webb and his co-accused in the sensational Vizconde Massacre case of the early 90’s, many still consider this to be unsolved. “I think PNP Chief Bacalzo has already said that they are reopening the case for investigation because as you know, the accused in that case were acquitted and as it is the case remains unsolved and it’s the duty of the state to make sure that the perpetrators are found and that they are brought to justice,” says lawyer and deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.

It can be recalled that Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., in a media briefing shortly after the release of Webb, had said: “You are [also] reminded of the applicable prescriptive period within which to file the case considering that the crime was committed in 1991.”In the memorandum, Ochoa also ordered Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to “evaluate, under existing laws, the possibility of granting compensation to those who may have been wrongfully accused of the said crime, in the light of the Supreme Court decision.”

Under Republic Act No. 3815, known as the act revising the penal code and other penal laws enacted December 8, 1930, “crimes punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or reclusion temporal shall prescribe in twenty years.” This means that the prescription period for the Vizconde massacre will expire in June this year and all cases filed against him thereafter will remain null and void.

You can protect your home and family from possible criminal elements.

Here are some deterrents:

Lock all doors and windows. Whether you are inside the house alone, or you are leaving for a party, make sure that all your doors and windows are locked.

Be friendly with your neighbors. If you are leaving for the night, talk to your neighbors if they could look after your house. Let them know when you are coming back. If possible, leave them your contact numbers.

Put up a burglar alarm or CCTV. If you have the means, put up an alarm system or a CCTV camera with which you can monitor all entries and exits and other areas in your house.When you are away, the burglar alarm can alert your neighbors for possible break-ins.

Leave a light open. Leave a light open in the garage or inside the house – whether you are staying home or going out of town.

Secure your valuables. Keep your valuables away, if possible, in a bank for safekeeping.

Keep important numbers within reach. For emergency purposes, keep a list of phone numbers (fire, police, barangay numbers, your parents’ mobile numbers, and others) by your dresser, the refrigerator or some place where you can easily find them. Store them in your mobile phone as well.